The Narrative of Frederick Douglass

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Betsy Bailey Character Analysis

Douglass’s grandmother. She raised Douglass because his mother was sold away. She spent her entire life working for Captain Anthony and his family. Douglass is indignant when he hears that after Anthony’s death, Betsy isn’t emancipated, but is instead put out in a shed in the woods to live out her final days alone.

Betsy Bailey Quotes in The Narrative of Frederick Douglass

The The Narrative of Frederick Douglass quotes below are all either spoken by Betsy Bailey or refer to Betsy Bailey. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Narrative of Frederick Douglass published in 1995.
Chapter 8 Quotes

“at this time, this most needful time, the time for the exercise of that tenderness and affection which children only can exercise towards a declining parent—my poor old grandmother, the devoted mother of twelve children, is left all alone, in yonder little hut, before a few dim embers. She stands—she sits—she staggers—she falls—she groans—she dies—and there are none of her children or grandchildren present, to wipe from her wrinkled brow the cold sweat of death, or to place beneath the sod her fallen remains. Will not a righteous God visit for these things?”

Related Characters: Frederick Douglass (speaker), Betsy Bailey
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Soon after Douglass' first master dies, his children die as well, which causes all of his slaves to be divided from each other and their familial bonds, "in the hands of strangers." Douglass implies that his grandmother is treated the worst, however; she is sent to a desolate hut in the woods, to supposedly provide for herself for the rest of her days. Just as her present owners fail to acknowledge her present state (she has no hope of caring for herself, in her enfeebled condition), they also fail to recognize her prior experiences. She not only took care of her master throughout his life, but she also brought him a fair portion of his wealth: her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. 

Douglass can only imagine how his "poor old" grandmother spent her last moments in "yonder little hut." He briefly lists the possibilities ("she stands—she sits—she staggers—she falls—she groans—she dies"), in order to fictionally be present with his grandmother, and to give at least a posthumous audience to her isolated suffering. Once again he appeals to the justice and truth of God, and wonders how he could allow such things to take place.


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Betsy Bailey Character Timeline in The Narrative of Frederick Douglass

The timeline below shows where the character Betsy Bailey appears in The Narrative of Frederick Douglass. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 8
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
...passed along to strangers; none is set free. Douglass is disgusted by the way his grandmother is treated: after serving her master for his entire lifetime, she is simply passed into... (full context)